By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University isn’t going to a bowl game this year.
Neither is Kansas, but if you’d seen them late Saturday afternoon, after they defeated the Mountaineers to end a 27-game Big 12 losing streak, you’d have thought they’d just won the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl combined.
Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineer coach, called it an “all-time low” for himself after the Jayhawks scored a 31-19 victory on their home field.
Holgorsen had coached in 14 consecutive bowl games while WVU had been to 11 straight, going back to Rich Rodriguez’s first season as coach in 2001.
WVU’s record fell to 4-7 and a .500 season is no longer possible with only one more home game left on the schedule against Iowa State following an off-week.
In the locker room, Holgorsen apologized to his seniors.
“I apologized to the 12 seniors in there for not getting to the 13th game,” Holgorsen said. “We got beat on all three sides of the ball. We got outcoached; we got outplayed.”
And in the other locker room, Kansas coach Charlie Weis was as happy as Holgorsen was sad, probably as happy as he had been since he stood in a Super Bowl championship locker room as an assistant with the New England Patriots.
He had gathered around him a team that had not won a Big 12 game since beating Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010.
“Well, that’s one. I want you to enjoy tonight. Yes you can go out on the town,” he said to his team, a statement greeted by as loud a cheer as his team had received in its half-filled stadium.
“With your track record I’ll get a call from police about 4. So please, use some common sense,” he continued. “That’s a great win for our program. Not matter who it was. It was going to happen.”
And it happened against West Virginia, convincingly.
On this wind-blown Saturday afternoon, Kansas was the better team.
Overpowering WVU on the ground behind its star running James Sims, who outperformed his opposite number, Charles Sims for West Virginia, Kansas methodically dominated the game.
James Sims became just the sixth player in history to rush for 200 yards against WVU, finishing with 211 yards and three touchdowns.
Charles Sims rushed for 99 yards and scored one touchdown rushing and one receiving.
“We stopped the run every week, but it was very disappointing in the first half to not stop the run,” Holgorsen said, Sims actually making the game’s key plays on the ground in the first half.
WVU actually came out as if it was ready to play, Holgorsen admitting he did not see what was about to come as the team took the opening kickoff and marched down the field to a Charles Sims’ touchdown on a well-executed screen pass from quarterback Paul Millard and a 7-0 lead.
Millard had started in place of Clint Trickett, who made the trip but did not dress due to a head injury suffered in the Texas game.
“I did not sense it early,” Holgorsen said of the letdown in WVU’s performance. “We had energy in the hotel. We had energy in the locker room. We went out and scored the first time. Then the defense went out there and they just laid down. The offense has relied on the defense all year.”
The Jayhawks roared back to score a field goal but WVU clung to that 7-3 advantage until James Sims changed the game and WVU’s season, starting in the middle of the second quarter when he burst free on a 62-yard run to set up his own 3-yard touchdown which gave Kansas a 10-7 lead.
That was how it looked it would be at halftime when Kansas took over at its own 32 with 39 seconds left in the half.
And it would have been that way if someone would have tackled Sims, who took the ball 68 yards into the end zone to break open the game at 17-7.
“It boiled down to those two big runs before the half,” said WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “That’s the same stuff we worked on all week. We got him wrapped up but we’ve got to finish the play. It’s a game of intensity. We played with it last week, not today.”
On the second one safety Darwin Cook, WVU’s leading tackler who had been injured a few plays earlier, was in position to make a play but couldn’t and was in obvious pain trying to chase Sims, leading Patterson to question whether Cook should even have been put back in the game.
This was Holgorsen’s radio description of the first half
“The first drive was good, other than that it was garbage. They’re beating us on all three sides of the ball, which means that their effort is better than ours. They are outplaying us and outcoaching us and we better fix it quick.”
Down 17-7 at the half, WVU came out and took the wind in the third quarter and had everything working for it, stopping Kansas, getting a shanked punt of 10 yards to give them the ball in Kansas territory, but disaster struck.
Following a first down, Millard tried to throw a pass over defensive end Ben Goodman, who leaped up and intercepted it, returning it 52 yards to set up James Sims’ third touchdown that took whatever was left in WVU out of the team.
Kansas simply managed the game the rest of the way, letting an interception by linebacker Ben Heeney set up a short TD by Brandon Bourbon and then hanging on as WVU scored a pair of meaningless touchdowns to narrow the final margin.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.